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Fireworks and champagne

Year in review: 2015

Fireworks and champagne

2015 has been a rollercoaster of a year.

Placesbrands brought you stories from Jakarta, Kingston, Amman, Limburg, Budapest and Washington DC.

As 2015 draws to a close, let’s revisit this year’s most popular posts. They focus on perspectives from around the world, from Jamaica and Cuba to Cornwall and Nashville.

2015 was a critical year for US-Cuban relations. Jamaican-born academic Dr Hume Johnson reflects on the opening up of Cuba, from the perspective of its closest neighbour.

City branding is a hot topic, but why do so many campaigns fail to achieve the desired impact? Jose Torres of Bloom Consulting talks us through the lesser-known secrets of image crafting, with a focus on the important role of digital tools.

In the UK it’s mostly about London. Unless it’s about Cornwall. The county at the tail end of England experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2015, partly driven by the hit TV series Poldark. John Lowdon of local brand agency Changing Brands explores the ins and outs of the shifting Cornish image, pirates and all.

Foreign Policy magazine is known for its commentary on world affairs, geopolitics and diplomacy. Now the group behind the magazine is branching out in a new direction and establishing a Nation Brand Institute. Its goal is to provide consulting, research and events services to foreign ministries around the world. Placesbrands met with FP to find out more about the plans.

Have you ever thought about the sounds that conjure up memories of places visited in the past? The practice of audio branding leverages the power of sound to promote place image. Steve Keller of iV Audio Branding tells us which places are making good use of their unique sounds and explains how to integrate audio as part of a wider brand strategy.

Placesbrands wishes everyone great success for 2016. Happy New Year!

US flag

Chalk and cheese

US flag

While the world shudders at the hatefulness displayed by US presidential candidate Donald Trump, newly elected Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has been personally welcoming Syrian refugees at the airport. What a contrast between two neighbouring countries!

For months now, Trump has been ramping up his negative rhetoric against refugees and immigrants. First it was Mexicans, now it’s Muslims. After the San Bernadino shootings, Trump announced that all Muslims should be banned from entering America.

This was unsurprising given his track record. Days earlier, Trump had suggested that Muslims living in America should be forced to add their personal details to a central database. This move, reminiscent of Hitler’s early policies towards Jews in Germany, horrified much of the world. However, there remained those who were not horrified, who actually supported Trump’s policies.

His latest comments on Muslims have attracted widespread condemnation, even from unlikely candidates such as David Cameron and Boris Johnson. The latter said he ‘won’t visit New York because Trump might be there.’ But despite global condemnation, Trump remains popular among aspects of American society that fear the ‘Other’ and admire Trump for ‘speaking his mind’.

Journalist Barbara Walters recently interviewed Trump. Here’s a short sample:
Walters: “Are you a bigot?”
Trump: “Not at all. Probably the least of anyone you’ve ever met.”
Walters: “Because…?”
Trump: “Because I’m not. I’ve got common sense. I’m a smart person.”

Trump’s comments have alienated some of his Muslim business associates in the Gulf, notably the boss of Landmark shopping malls, who announced that his company would remove Trump branded products from its stores across the Middle East. The residents of Istanbul’s posh development Trump Towers aren’t too happy either.

One Istanbul resident, Melek Toprak, told the New York Times recently: “I feel ashamed to live in a building associated with such a vile man.”

In contrast, Canada has emerged as a do-gooder. Since Trudeau was elected, he has made a swathe of policy changes and announcements, deciding to withdraw from airstrikes on Syria, and allowing 25,000 Syrian refugees to enter Canada. These moves are reinstating Canada’s old image as a benevolent and inclusive nation.

Arguably, Trudeau’s actions are pulling Canada’s reputation back from the brink, undoing much of the damage caused by his predecessor Stephen Harper.

Canada currently ranks 12th overall on the Good Country Index, a ranking of countries that do the most good for the world as a whole. The US, in contrast, stands at 21st place. This is based on data from last year, so it will be interesting to see how the results change in next year’s edition of the ranking.

Simon Anholt, creator of the Good Country Index, commented via Twitter: “I’m greatly relieved that [Canada] is reengaging with the world.”

But while Canada continues to spread goodwill and reestablish itself in the global order, America’s political climate is bubbling with vitriol. Islamophobia and discrimination have risen significantly. This bodes badly for America’s reputation, already set against a backdrop of institutionalised racism and growing perceptions of a violent ‘frontier’ society. This is the country where school shootings happen regularly.

Many Americans (and indeed, the world) hope and pray that Hillary Clinton will secure the premiership next year. If that doesn’t happen, it’s possible that Donald Trump could end up as president. The consequences of that are indeed worrying.

America’s worsening reputation could be the least of anyone’s concerns. The risk of the world’s most powerful nation becoming an intolerant, far-right state, led by a man whose comments have drawn comparisons to Hitler, is far more frightening.

New York city branding

What makes destination brands succeed?

New York city branding

This post is by Michelle Polizzi at Brandfolder, the world’s most powerfully simple digital asset management platform.

Imagine you’ve just stepped into a yellow taxi on Fifth Avenue.

You glide along the pavement beneath giant, shining skyscrapers while the smell of fresh pizza wafts in through the window to ignite your appetite, and suddenly, you step out into the bright lights of Times Square where the energy is nearly palpable.

Even if you’ve never been to New York, you knew which city I was describing because New York’s destination branding is universally recognisable.

Destination branding is a marketing concept that involves communicating the feelings, culture, and overall mindset people experience when visiting a place.

Branding a destination is challenging because it involves variables that can’t be fully controlled, like how food tastes at a restaurant or what the weather is like.

If destination branding is so abstract, what does it take to successfully market a destination?

To answer this question, here’s an explanation of why destination branding is so important, as well as three examples of brands who succeed at the challenge.

When Milton Glaser designed the “I Love New York” logo in 1977, he intended the campaign to last just a few months. Much to his surprise, that slab serif typeface and pop art heart became a lasting icon for the city that reigns today, almost 40 years later!

The “I Love New York” campaign succeeded because it has consistently brought international tourists to New York, and along with them, their wallets.

In 2013, the World Travel and Tourism Council released a report that placed the global economic contribution of the tourism industry at nearly 7 trillion dollars.

Because the tourism industry is so valuable to economies at the city, state and national level, it’s no surprise the industry is fiercely competitive. Tourism brands have to convince travellers why they should visit their city instead of another one, and they have to create an experience which keeps visitors coming back for more.

Montréal, Minnesota, and British Columbia are three examples of destination brands that have recently launched new campaigns to deepen their connection with consumers, attract new visitors, and more accurately reflect their modern identities.

Check out the full post for Brandfolder’s take on destination branding, and case studies of Montreal, Minnesota,and British Columbia, focusing on how these destinations have used community feedback, social media, and more!

Vamonde Chicago

Place storytelling in your pocket

Vamonde Chicago

For centuries people have told stories about places. Legends of far-flung spots like Timbuktu, Constantinople, and Zanzibar had captured the European imagination long before global travel became commonplace.

Now in the 21st century, the medium of delivery has changed but the desire for stories has remained. A new startup is combining colourful stories of place with a mobile app platform.

Created in Chicago and launched just weeks ago, Vamonde is the brainchild of Anijo Mathew, an entrepreneur based in the Windy City. The platform is already gaining traction, attracting hundreds of users in its first weeks. I caught up with Anijo last week for a brief chat about Vamonde and its mission.

Vamonde is a place-based storytelling platform, designed to help connect physical and virtual places through the use of place narratives. Users log on and create place ‘adventures’, which can feature special sections to be unlocked only when the reader physically visits the place in question.

Some of the latest stories posted feature a tour of Chicago’s historical architecture, the stories of Humboldt Park, and the intersections and places that define Illinois Institute of Technology, one of the growing number of organisations that use Vamonde.

Anijo has always believed that the world is full of stories just waiting to be discovered. But he found that the question, “what happened here?” too often tended to go unanswered.

So he asked: “What if we really could make these walls talk? What if we could explore the world around us – not just seeing what’s in front of us now, but seeing who and what came before?”

At present, Vamonde’s birthplace Chicago is the main focus of the platform. But the team behind Vamonde hopes to expand the app to encompass other cities, both within America and all over the world. Anijo and I both agreed that cities with long histories, such as Istanbul, could be ideal candidates for Vamonde’s next steps.

Vamonde (vah-mond) brings together two French words – Va, meaning “Go” and Monde, meaning “World.” Put together, Vamonde means “Go World.” The idea for Vamonde came from real world needs of those wanting to tell stories of place.

“We want to help users and organisations create beautiful experiences out in the world and connect stories into amazing adventures that encourage others to get out of their offices, homes, hotel rooms to touch, feel, smell, hear and experience place!”

This is the spirit that drives Vamonde.

Vamonde is currently available only for iOS, but an Android version is in the works.

If you’re interested in learning more, follow Vamonde on Twitter or Facebook.

the rock

Revamping the Rock

the rock

Andrew Stevens writes for Placesbrands with this in-depth report on Brand Gibraltar, examining the Rock’s approach to tourism, inward investment, and everything in between.

“You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain” – ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, The Beatles

Here are Gibraltar’s key brand assets:
• High growth economy – 10% per annum
• Strategic location – access to EU and Africa
• Strong heritage and culture offer for visitors
• Government focus on four pillars: finance, shipping, tourism and e-gaming
• Links with UK – legal system and regulatory regimes

As well as the on-going dispute with Spain over its sovereignty, with some hard to shift perceptions of it being both a colonial relic and tax haven, Gibraltar’s leaders are well aware of the task the territory faces in promoting its brand externally.

The Government works at different levels to counter these perceptions (often including paid advertorials in the UK press) and also develop tourism and inward investment growth. It consistently describes itself as a reliable and safe place to do business, visit and work, and one which pays its own way rather than relying on any subsidies from the UK (running a budget surplus of £65m in 2014).

Gibraltar has used reforms of corporate taxation as actions aimed at securing what it has referred to as a “decade-long reputational shift from a tax haven to an internationally tax-compliant, small onshore EU finance centre.” This now sees a “low tax, not no tax” offer, with a new corporate rate of 10% introduced in 2011.

Part of the thinking here is that being selective about the quality of business sought generates security and reputational worth. As one business leader put it: “We’re not about mass business. Gibraltar is about actually adding value and bringing quality business in.”

Ministers are also keen to play up Gibraltar’s status as part of the European Union and the regulatory compliance and market access the jurisdiction offers, which was readily apparent in discussions with the Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia during my recent visit.

Gibraltar’s financial services minister Gilbert Licudi has said: “Our reputation, robust regulation, access to the single European market, low – not zero – tax and attractive lifestyle are a powerful combination to bring new business to Gibraltar.”

Having tied this reputational shift to a package of political and regulatory reforms since taking office in 2011, the government is acutely aware of the need to communicate its offer globally while respecting the delicate balance of doing so in step with the UK (which retains responsibility for foreign affairs), but at the same time advancing its own distinct brand values and identity as set out by its elected government (the current Chief Minister Fabian Picardo routinely describes it as “British Gibraltar”).

It has identified not only the all-important BRICS markets (especially Hong Kong) as natural targets but also other territories closer to home, both physically and linguistically through a focus on relations with the Commonwealth and the US. The government is active in the political structures of the Commonwealth of Nations, such as the Commonwealth Ministers’ Forum and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (as well as participating in the Commonwealth Games).

In the U.S. the government has appointed a long term resident of New York as its official representative, while even Miss Gibraltar has been enlisted to front the marketing of the territory at a number of international trade events.

The government also envisages the establishment of an international legal studies centre in Gibraltar, which can play a global role in analysing and informing decolonisation debates in international forums, not only contributing to global dialogue and stability but also furthering its own ambitions for self-determination.

The volume of shipping through the Straits of Gibraltar, 71,000 vessels each year, has seen its port develop niche industries aimed at servicing the needs of not only ships needing EU-compliant heavy fuel but also repairs, crew change facilities and hull cleaning. It can also offer owners a British common law legal system, which makes it attracting for registering ships. As one leading financier put it, Gibraltar offers “an Anglo-Saxon working environment and a Latin lifestyle.”

Case study: Toyota Gibraltar
Toyota Gibraltar Stockholdings (TGS) has grown from humble origins as the family-run Bassadone Motors car dealership (set up in 1927) into a global hub for the delivery and specialist servicing of Toyota’s humanitarian relief vehicles.

Acting as official supplier to the UN, UNICEF, WHO, JICA and several global NGOs active in humanitarian and relief efforts, the company uses its base on Gibraltar to dispatch and service the familiar white vehicles to wherever they are needed around the world, as well as offering specialist training to enable drivers to maintain and protect their vehicles in the field.

The company employs staff of 12 nationalities to enable it to be understood and trusted in these markets, with 600 vehicles (Land Cruiser, Hilux, Hiace and Prado models) in stock at any time available for deployment at short notice – in the 2014 Ebola crisis 32 Hiluxes were shipped from the port of Gibraltar via the Royal Navy to Sierra Leone.

Turnarounds from orders within 24 hours are possible, such as rapid deployment of two modified vehicles to the Nepal earthquake via Madrid Airport (ordered at 10.30 and airborne by 23.30).

These workshops can modify Toyota vehicles to serve a number of different humanitarian roles, for instance ambulances or mortuary vans (which are resprayed from white to black).

Having grown the business since Toyota’s decision to divest itself of direct sales of humanitarian vehicles in the 1980s, TGS consider that Gibraltar’s strategic location adjacent to Africa and the Mediterranean, but with access to Spain’s airports, is a core reason for its leading position in this specialist market.

E-gaming is another rapidly growing sector, now responsible for 20% of its GDP since its emergence 20 years ago following leading British companies such as BetVictor moving their operations from the UK to the territory (now the second largest employer after the government and the sector as a whole employs 13% of workers, many commuting from Spain).

“In Asia now, it’s seen as a mark of approval that you operate out of Gibraltar. We are well-regulated and people recognise that fact,” said BetVictor chairman Victor Chandler.

As well as Gibraltar’s security in regulatory vigilance (against scams and rogue companies) and data networks, the territory has a global competitive advantage for its resident industry expertise and spin-off businesses in secure payments processing and intellectual property (which is tax-free on royalties), which has since spawned a new start-up tech sector growing in size.

Ultimately it isn’t bankers, seafarers or gamblers who will generate the word of mouth necessary for Gibraltar to acquire a more brand awareness in the minds of the global public, but visitors to the Rock.

Here the authorities are seeking to refresh the offer a little to increase volume by reaching out to new global markets, not least on account of the centrality of websites in reaching and informing audiences.

The government also eyes new air links to more parts of the UK as being integral in driving up visitor numbers to promote it as an accessible destination, especially against fierce European competition.

Congestion and movement of visitors is an issue for a territory so closely hemmed in (2.5 miles by one mile at the widest point), with the government looking to invest more in enabling visitors to access all the territory has to offer.

Rather than just wartime tunnels and the famous ape colony, Gibraltar’s tourism minister Neil Costa was set the brief to revamp the brand when he was elected as part of the new reform-minded government.

He says that widening the number of annual events, such as the new jazz and literary festivals, will enable it to sharpen the visitor offer, while cruise calls and day visits are also on an upward trend.



The Guardian: Gibraltar – The Report

Andrew Stevens is Chief Researcher of the London office for the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, which recently visited Gibraltar to study the economic and political affairs of the territory.